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Improving Your eLearning Courses: The 4 Most Important Elements to Focus On

If your eLearning course isn’t meeting your expectations, your development team can, with the right knowledge, improve it without starting from scratch.

Here are four elements you should focus on to “stir up” more interest in your course and get more successful results.


Element #1: Design and Visuals

It doesn’t matter how useful and relevant your content is if your course doesn’t have a good design. When we talk about good design we mean using the right colors, space, forms, images, and content in a harmonious, balanced way. Good design is also about how user-friendly your course is. When learners encounter poorly designed, outdated, or unprofessional eLearning courses, they are more likely to dropout because they can’t find what they are looking for or it takes too long to find the content they need. They won't trust the quality of the content either. 

However, a surprising number of eLearning courses still exhibit clip-art from the 1990s, or offer shaky, low-quality video with poor sound.  Making some simple tweaks to the design of your courses can significantly reduce dropout rates and ease the learning process.  

Here are some ways to do it: 

  • Break up the course content into chunks as much as you can. Avoid complex sentences or videos that are too long. Organize the information into clearly-labeled steps so that audiences have an easy time grasping what they’re supposed to be learning.
  • Use high- quality graphics with a consistent style. Don’t make the same mistake as other course developers and use 90s clip-art, boring, decorative images or give your learners low-quality video with bad sound. Whether they realize it or not, these visuals affect the impressions the course leaves on the learners, and they will have a harder time trusting the quality of the content.
  • Simplify and strategize. Get rid of any graphics, images, and text that are not absolutely necessary for grasping the material. If the content is really complex, on the other hand, more visual aids such as graphs and charts are always a good idea.
  • People tend to ignore cluttered and boring design. They gravitate, instead, to one that’s aesthetically pleasing. With 94% of people saying first impressions are design-related, make sure every screen is eye-catching and uncluttered.Embrace white space by ensuring that there is enough white (or blank) space in every screen so they don’t look too crowded.

visual design crash course

Element #2: Interactivity 

People learn more readily when they are actively engaged with the content, rather than sitting back and passively absorbing it. It's harder to become distracted when an eLearning course is regularly asking for thoughtful input – which means something more than clicking "Next." When eLearning development incorporates real interaction and engagement into the design of a course, users will get more out of the content.

Here are some ideas for increasing the interactivity of your existing eLearning course:

  • Add gamification elements to your course: Give learners an opportunity to apply what they’ve learned with a game or simulation. Also, try rewarding your learners for completing each module or section.
  • Don’t include evaluations only at the end of the course! Administer short quizzes every once in a while to reinforce the material and keep users engaged.
  • Vary the format. Change the format of the course from a linear progression into tree-like branches, requiring users to make choices about which material to unlock next.
  • Humanize yourself and your course. If you have the ability to interact live with your students, introduce yourself and ask the learners a few questions. Otherwise, record a video sharing a little about yourself to build rapport with your audience. In addition, make sure you come off as personable by avoiding jargon and speaking in plain language.

Read more: eLearning Interactivity: When It Works and When It Goes Wrong

Element #3: Content

Nothing is worse than reading eLearning content that is long, dense, monotonous and boring. The content of an eLearning course should be snappy and engaging, so it’s especially important to hone your approach to this aspect of online course creation.

Ultimately, an eLearning course is only as good as the content itself. Often, additional details and supplemental materials are added in during eLearning development, causing the content of the course to bloat unnecessarily.

Here are some ways to make sure your content is as clear and engaging as possible:

  • Check every piece of material for relevancy. If it doesn’t fit the main learning objectives outlined at the beginning of the course, move it to sidebars or get rid of it completely.
  • Make sure there’s only one concept on every screen. This cuts down on distractions that detract from learning the main objectives.
  • Optimize the sequencing of information. Skills and concepts need to build on each other in a progression that makes sense to create a strong foundation of information. Otherwise, users may end up confused because they don’t have the material necessary to understand each lesson.
  • Always focus on the learner. Ask yourself whether a user will learn from your course what they’re trying to find out. Make sure that you’re always working from the perspective of the learner’s goals.
  • Tone of voice: Make your content more exciting by using a more personal and engaging tone of voice. Read more: Strike the Right Tone for Maximum Impact 
  • Vary the length of your sentences and change up your rhythm. Wake up your audience. Throw in a short sentence. Then go back to longer sentences with more information when the content supports it.
  • Stories! Another great way to keep your content inspiring is by using stories, analogies, quotes, and examples to illustrate the critical points of your material. Read more: How Storytelling can Improve Your eLearning Courses 
  • Pay more attention to sequencing: The order and progression of eLearning content is also important. Skills and concepts need to be introduced in a manner that proceeds logically and facilitates understanding, rather than in whatever order someone on the eLearning development team thought of them. Concepts must build on one another to create a strong foundation for learning, rather than being stacked haphazardly without regard for coherence. By going through the content sequentially and ensuring that one idea follows clearly from the next, developers can ensure that users will not be confused by the content.

Element #4: Navigation 

Learners should be able to easily and independently navigate your course.

Aids like arrows, icons, and buttons can be helpful, but you must take a minimal approach to make sure you’re not overwhelming your users. Make sure every navigation element is thoughtfully-placed and clearly visible.

When it comes to using the course technology itself, this is not the time to get creative. Stick to the basics.

Here are some tips for making sure your course navigation is as easy as possible:

  • Allow users to view their progress by making the past, present, and future of the material all very clear. This will keep them grounded in their approach to the material.
  • Make sure your drop-down menus are concise. Don’t add too many options or too few.
  • Use color to make the most relevant information “pop.” Supplemental material can be less colorful.
  • Unlock the navigation, letting users skip forward or review old material as they please. Give them complete control so that they can access exactly the information that they need.
  • Choose a navigation style carefully. Maybe your course will follow horizontally from left to right or vertically from top to bottom. Maybe you will have a course outline at the top of a screen for easy skipping, tabs, or visually-oriented grids. If your audience is not very tech-savvy, a simple format with “next” and “back” options might be best.

Read more: Don't Frustrate Your Learners! 7 Rules for Creating User-Friendly eLearning

How have you improved your eLearning courses? Let us know in the comments below!

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Karla Gutierrez
Karla Gutierrez
Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT. ES:Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT.

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